My interest in the Brahmakamal started in July, when I visited my aunt in Sion. She took me to her balcony, and showed me a plant with buds.
"This is the Brahmakamal", she said. "Don't you know the story of how Brahma emerged from Vishnu's navel in a lotus flower? We are lucky it is going to bloom in our house! See the buds?"
I peered over her shoulder, and saw a rather ordinary looking plant, about 4 feet tall. And yes, there were a few buds. I noticed one very strange thing - unlike other plants, these buds actually originated from the leaf of the plant.
Over coffee, I found out more about the Brahmakamal. She told me that the flower is considered sacred, and does not bloom in all homes. So people consider themselves lucky if they are able to witness this rare event, and perform pooja and aarti at the time of blooming. It is also considered to be a good omen and a sign of prosperity for the home.
I made up my mind to see this interesting flower. Over the next two weeks, I made several visits to her house, hoping that the buds would bloom...but they remained obstinately closed. Then one day, at 8:30 p.m., my aunt called me. "Come tonight, the buds have started to open!" I hurriedly finished my dinner and took my Canon Powershot A460 digital camera to catch a few pictures.
Half-open phase - absolutely beautiful
Brahmakamal in full bloom
The whole room was filled with a lovely fragrance, and I was ecstatic to witness to this beautiful creation of the Almighty. If you look a little closer at the photo, you'll see the central white stamen. People believe that this stamen represents Lord Krishna, while the reddish brown stalks which you can see on the closed bud represent the 100 Kauravas from the Mahabharata.
The Brahmakamal is not a lotus at all, although its petals resemble a lotus. Lotuses grow in ponds, whereas the Brahmakamal grows on the slopes of the Himalayas (it is the state flower of Uttaranchal). The botanical name for this flower is Saussurea Obvallata. There is a belief that the Brahmakamal should be gifted, and not bought in the market. To grow the plant, a leaf is planted in the soil (and not a seedling or stem). This leaf then multiplies and becomes a plant to a height of about 4 to 5 feet. The flower itself is around 4-5 inches in diameter and has a lovely fragrance. But of course, you have to wait a whole year to smell that fragrance!
(Posted by Deepa on behalf of her uncle A. Krishnan. Edits by Deepa. Here's hoping the clan continues to produce more writers!)
Note (Oct 2): It turns out this flower is not the Brahmakamal but the Dutchman's Pipe. But Indians who worship it don't make these fine botanical differentiations! In the larger scheme of things, perhaps that is a better attitude?